There’s a reason a serrated knife is so often called a bread knife. The long blade with a series of sharp teeth excels at neatly cutting through the exterior of crusty loaves and gliding through soft ones without crushing them.
The serrated knife is no one-trick pony, especially if you have a good one. If you’re in the market for a winner, Serious Eats recommends the Tojiro bread slicer 235 mm and the Dexter-Russell Basics 10-inch scalloped slicer, and Cook’s Illustrated stands by the Mercer Culinary 10-inch wavy-edge wide bread knife — my go-to in our Food Lab.
Now here are all the other ways you can use this handy tool.
Tomatoes. A serrated knife will cleanly slice through tomatoes without crushing the flesh and losing all the juices.
Citrus. Want fancy segments for a salad? You can use your serrated knife (this little paring one from Victorinox, a staple in the Food Lab, is especially helpful here) to “supreme” oranges and grapefruit. See how it’s done in my orange primer.
Layer cakes. I don’t use anything else when I need to divide a cake for stacking and frosting. A serrated knife will cut, not tear, the cake, and it’s long enough to reach all the way through it. My favorite strategy involves using the knife to score a line around the outside of the cake and then gradually working the knife through the cake as I continue to rotate it (a turntable is useful).
Chocolate. Breaking up a large block of chocolate with a standard chef’s knife is doable, but it has a tendency to send shards flying in all directions. With a sawing motion and the serrated knife’s tiny teeth, you get more control and less mess.
Pastries and other filled treats. As with tomatoes, delicate or filled pastries benefit from the way a serrated knife can saw and not crush. Pull it out when you want to share a croissant that may otherwise shatter into a million flakes or a Napoleon that threatens to release a gush of pastry cream. Similarly, the serrated knife is ideal for cleanly cutting a layer cake, an icebox cake or a Yule log/bûche de nöel.
Bread dough. Many loaves of bread, such as Joy Wilson’s Overnight Dutch Oven Bread, need to be slashed at the top before baking. The lines are decorative, yes, but the vents also serve a purpose, allowing for the dough to expand neatly. You can buy a specialty lame for the purpose, or you can just pull out your handy serrated knife.
Sandwiches. Don’t smoosh out the fillings of your beautifully constructed sandwich. Again, a serrated knife can give you crisp cuts to preserve all those layers.
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